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News

IOC accepts recommendation to include T20 cricket in 2028 Los Angeles Olympics

Next step will be for the IOC to vote at its 'Session', which will take place in Mumbai from October 14 to 16

Nagraj Gollapudi
13-Oct-2023
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has "accepted" the recommendation to include T20 cricket (for both men and women) at the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. The IOC took the decision on Friday at its executive board meeting in Mumbai. The next step will be for the IOC to vote at its Session, which will take place in Mumbai from October 14 to 16.
The LA28 local organising committee recommended the "potential inclusion" of five new sports - cricket, baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse and squash - as part of the Los Angeles Games. And speaking at a media briefing on Friday, IOC president Thomas Bach said all five sports were "in line" with the general ethos of LA28.
"These proposals have been accepted as a package by the IOC executive board taking into consideration that these proposals and these sports are fully in line with the sports culture of our host in '28, with the American sports culture," Bach said. "All these proposals will now go to the IOC Session here in Mumbai for a vote.
"These sports will showcase iconic American sports to the world while bringing at the same time international sports to the United States. The inclusion will allow the Olympics to engage with new athletes and fan communities in the US and globally."
While the ICC has been ambitious about getting cricket to feature at the Olympics, in line with its goal of making it a global sport, the needle moved decisively only in 2019. First, cricket returned to the Commonwealth Games in 2022, when women's T20s were played at Edgbaston in Birmingham with eight teams competing over eight days.
Simultaneously, the BCCI agreed to come under the ambit of India's National Anti-Doping Agency, an affiliate of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), after years of resisting the move. For a long time, the resistance of boards like BCCI had put the ICC's Olympic dream in jeopardy because the IOC mandates that every global sport body must be WADA compliant.
On Friday, Bach said in his opening remarks that the IOC had been satisfied with the "robust" anti-doping programme of all the five new sports, including cricket. Bach pointed out that cricket's appeal has been strong and growing globally, and that fact was not lost on the IOC - and the LA28 organisers - despite the game never really growing strong roots in the USA.
He also highlighted India's performance at the Hangzhou Asian Games recently, where the country secured 100-plus medals for the first time. Bach said that India ranked second on the IOC's social-media handles, which underscored the "interest of the young generation" in the Olympics.

Was it tough to convince LA28 about cricket's inclusion?

Asked if LA28 had needed any persuasion about cricket's addition as a new sport, Bach said there was no need for it. "I can maybe reveal a secret that it did not take anything to convince them [LA28]," he said. "The first idea came up in a dinner I shared with Casey Wasserman [LA28 chairperson] on the occasion of the Athletics World Championships in Eugene [in Oregon, USA] last year. Casey saw already the great potential [of cricket] and was highlighting it himself. So there was not much work to do, if any."
In the preceding months, Bach has spoken about how he had become a fan of T20 cricket, especially, and though he doesn't know the nuts and bolts of the sport, he understood its popularity. "We see the growing popularity of cricket and in particular the T20 format. Now the [T20] World Cup [is] a huge success already. So we are looking forward to welcome the world's best players in cricket to perform in the US in '28."
As an example, he pointed to the inaugural edition of Major League Cricket (MLC), which was played across three venues in the USA this summer with six franchises, four of which are owned by groups that own IPL teams - Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Capitals - and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was also among the list of owners. Bach described MLC as a "very successful" tournament, which catered well to the "growing" Indian community in the USA. "So that it is very attractive for LA and it's very attractive for the Olympic movement," he said. Not to forget, USA will co-host the 2024 men's T20 World Cup with the West Indies.
Bach, though, was clear that the IOC would engage with ICC and not any T20 franchises in "receiving ideas" on expanding cricket's footprint globally.
IOC's sports director Kit McConnell confirmed that six teams in both men's and women's cricket will take part in Los Angeles.
"All of the team sports have been proposed as a six-team tournament, but subject to finalisation at the start of 2025," he said. "That number, if it's confirmed by the Session to be in the programme, all of those athlete numbers would be confirmed along with the sports previously confirmed in the programme when we finalise the event programme and athlete quota are at the start of 2025."
In its proposal to LA28, the ICC had suggested the six teams would be shortlisted based on the T20I rankings at a cut-off date. McConnell said that a final call on the qualification system would be taken by 2025. "Normally, the host country is one of the teams in the team sports, and then we look at a balance of global strength and regional representation and try and find that balance within the available quota as well."
Even if cricket features in Los Angeles, the IOC will once again review its inclusion in future editions, including in 2032 in Brisbane. India, meanwhile, has been hoping to host the 2036 Olympics.
Asked if the game's popularity would have an impact on its place in the Olympics, Bach agreed, saying it would not only benefit the Olympics but also help the sport broaden its popularity globally.
"This is a win-win situation," he said. "The Olympic Games will give cricket a global stage and the opportunity to grow beyond the traditional cricket countries and regions. And for the Olympic movement, it's an opportunity to engage with the fans' and athletes' community, to which so far we have very little or no access.
"And we see this move also very much reflected here in how one can enrich the other: we see it in India where you see the growing Olympic spirit, where you see a number of Olympic sports gaining strength and becoming popular. And cricket still being the No. 1 sport and the most popular sport."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo